Over the last week or two (or three?) I’ve had a dozen unfinished conversations on Twitter and just as many ideas for articles and blog posts stemming from them, but it’s hard to find the time and energy to do justice to it all. Given the circumstances, I thought collecting all my half-written notes and reminders to get back to so-and-so would kill all my various birds with one rock.
So, In no particular order, let’s finish these chats…
A black Mary Jane? Apparently actress Zendaya has been cast as Mary Jane Watson in the upcoming Spider-man film, and you know what? That’s awesome. I mean, sure, I thought Nick Fury being black was weird at first, but I grew to love Samuel L. Jackson in the role and now he’s who I automatically think of when Fury’s name is mentioned. I can’t imagine anybody else playing him now. In fact, my son has only ever known a black Fury, and when I told him that he used to be a white guy in the comics, he couldn’t even process it. I’m sure the same will be true of this new MJ.
It’s all about what you’re used to, and let’s face facts here — the world is more than just white people and we need to embrace it. As long as the movie’s better than the last few Spider-Man films, I’m all in. More diversity? Yes please, and kudos to Marvel for shaking things up again.
Inside. It’s a short game, but I would like it to be shorter. It’s not bad as it is, but even being such a brief experience — four hours, give or take? — it feels like there’s too much padding and the best parts of the experience are surrounded by too many things that dilute the message.
For me, the best parts of Inside aren’t the puzzles or the animation, but the way my expectations and assumptions at the beginning of the game get flipped by the end. I’m not going to spoil it here, but if you’ve played it, you know what I’m talking about. However, the game takes its sweet time getting there, and I felt like a lot of what the player goes through beforehand is just Limbo 2.0.
Overall I thought it was maybe 25% awesome and 75% lukewarm gameplay that didn’t really serve the main idea.
No Man’s Sky. I still haven’t played it and I don’t have any immediate plans to. I’m still curious, but it seems like the sort of game that’s going to be wildly different in a year’s time, and likely much better than it is now. However, it’s all people have been talking about since launch, and it’s been impossible to avoid the chatter.
In my particular circles I hear a lot of people defending the game, pointing out that the dev team is small and that the algorithm which produces 18 quintillion planet is amazing. That’s all true, but at the same time, I think the people who paid $60 (or more!) have a right to be upset — regardless of how difficult it was to pull off that random generation, it seems clear that the developers got too wrapped up in the idea of making all these worlds possible, but didn’t think about how that would translate into compelling gameplay. It’s like that famous line from Jurassic Park – they were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.
If it launched as a small indie for 20 bucks, I think people would’ve had more patience for the game in its current state, but after three or so years of hype at maximum levels along with a triple-A asking price and the developers being so cagey about it for so long, it’s not hard to understand why so many customers are feeling burned. I’m a firm believer that games are art, but if you’re charging, then they are also products – the unspoken contract isn’t that people pay money for the privilege of seeing a creator’s vision, it’s that they pay money to have an interesting experience. The two things are not always one and the same.
Metal Gear Survive. I’ve heard from dozens of people who were outraged, offended, or otherwise upset and mad as hell that Konami would put out a new Metal Gear that didn’t have Kojima attached. Here’s the trailer, in case you haven’t seen it.
To be frank, I don’t understand why anyone is upset. Let’s face facts here — it’s been blindingly obvious for years that Kojima has wanted to stop working on MGS and do something else. He’s said so many times, and he’s even put himself in his games as a prisoner to be rescued. Not exactly a subtle metaphor there, folks. If people are truly his fans, why would they want him to stay chained to something he doesn’t want to do?
In addition, it’s not like the games he’s done recently are classics. The last MGS I genuinely enjoyed was probably MGS3, and since then they’ve been less than stellar. In fact, his recent output reminds me of when George Lucas took full control of Star Wars, and we all know what shitshows those turned out to be. Once people who were true fans full of enthusiasm took control of the franchise, the result was way more in line with what people wanted and a better experience overall.
Carrying that same sentiment forward, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if MGSurvive turned out to be pretty good. At the very least, I’m excited that someone else will be in charge, and we might actually get something that isn’t enslaved to the same style of insane-o stuff Kojima’s been churning out lately.
I’m more than ready to give it a chance, and honestly, what’s the alternative? No more Metal Gear games ever? Kojima’s not coming back to the series and the only option is to have someone else step in. That’s got to be preferable to seeing the series fade away for good.
And besides, Kojima’s still around and he’s got no shortage of people wanting to work with him… We’ll be seeing far too much of Norman Reedus soon enough.
Stranger Things. So I saved this one for last since I figure it’s going to be the one most likely to piss people off and stop reading.
Pretty much everyone on Earth has been raving and raving and raving about the show since it debuted on Netflix, so the wife and I carved out some time to check it out. At this point we’ve watched six episodes and will probably finish the final two this weekend. So far, I’m just not seeing the greatness.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly serviceable and decent, but it’s so incredibly derivative and unoriginal that I’m puzzled as to why people are enthralled. I mean, of course the thing is a giant love letter to the 80s and the references and style are overwhelming, but it takes a lot more than some period posters and well-known songs from that era to make it notable to me.
I lived through those times and I have those fond memories, but so what? The directors check off a bunch of things on a list of Stuff From The 80s and call it good — the story is flat and predictable, the characters are tropes, and I feel like I’ve already seen the whole thing before, and I have… Every aspect of it is taken from some other, better work.
Sure, the font is great and they nailed the aesthetics of the era, but there’s not much more to it than that, and I doubt anything in the last two hours are going to change it.